Desiccated water

I should be working. I should actually be researching Persian female apparel circa 300BC. I should be absorbed in textiles and patterns and styles and not in any way thinking about Professor Rapson. I shouldn’t be imagining putting my feet up and drinking wine with Peterson. I certainly shouldn’t be staring out of the window listening to an imaginary conversation between Max and Professor Rapson. I’m never going to be a proper author at this rate …

 

Desiccated Water

I was on my way to Peterson’s office for our Friday afternoon meeting. The one where he opens out a bottle of wine, I get out the glasses, and we both put our feet up and have a huge moan about the previous week. Sometimes the meetings are quite long.

Anyway, I was making my way around the gallery, juggling the half dozen or so files I’d brought with me as camouflage – because it doesn’t do the other ranks any good at all to see a couple of senior officers setting a bad example – although, to be fair, most people were outside watching the Security and Technical Sections eviscerate each other in the name of sport – when Professor Rapson erupted – literally – from his lab shouting, ‘Eureka!’

He was fully clothed. Trust me – it was the first thing I checked.

I said, ‘Good afternoon professor,’ because that’s how Markham would do it. Apparently now he’s Head of Security, standards must be maintained. What sort of standards of course, he never says.

‘Ah Max. Good news. I’ve done it.’

‘So I gathered, professor. Jolly well done.’

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I know it’s been a while but we got there in the end.’

‘Excellent news, professor’ I said, trying to ignore the glass of wine shaped hole in my life and failing dismally. ‘I look forward to reading your report.’

‘No, no, you don’t understand, Max. I’ve really done it.’

I stopped thinking about wine and concentrated. This was Professor Rapson after all. I asked the question I should have led with.

‘Exactly what have you done professor?’

‘Well, as you know Max, water is very heavy.’

I stared at him. He looked comparatively normal. His hair was standing on end. He had a huge acid burn on one sleeve of his lab coat of which he appeared

completely oblivious and was wearing one brown and one black shoe, so as I said – normal.

He was, however, waving around a beaker of clear fluid. I stepped back because it could be anything. The Elixir of Life. Cerebral brain fluid – although if it was his it would probably be a little murkier. An untraceable deadly poison that would kill us all in seconds. Anything, really.

He raised the beaker to his lips and drank deeply. I braced myself but nothing dreadful seemed to happen to him.

‘Water, Max. Water. I’ve done it.’ He raised the empty beaker. I half expected a flash of lightning and shouts of ‘It’s alive! It’s alive!’ but that usually relates to Markham.

‘What were you expecting, professor?’

‘Well, water, obviously, Max.’

Never had a glass of wine seemed so far away.

‘Professor, please tell me – what is the project you’ve been working on?’

‘Oh yes, of course. Well, as I said, Max, water is heavy. Leon’s always complaining about the weight of the tanks and how that messes up his calculations and he’s right so I thought I’d have a go.’

‘At what, professor?’

‘Desiccated water.’

Oh God …

‘What?’

‘Desiccated water, Max. Powdered water. The answer to all our problems. We reduce water down to a fine powder, bag it up in plastic and hey presto, portable water. No more tanks, no more heavy water bottles – just stick a couple of packs in you supplies and away you go. Small packs for your pocket. Something larger if you want a bath. Simple. Quick. Easy. Convenient.’

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘That’s brilliant professor. Well done.’

‘Thank you,’ he said modestly.’ I’m just off to show Chief Farrell.’

‘He’ll be thrilled,’ I said, happily sacrificing Leon’s Friday afternoon, but wine deprivation can do that to a girl. ‘You must give him a complete demonstration. Several, in fact.’

‘I will,’ he said, hair standing even more on end as he prepared to depart at top speed.

‘Just one question, professor.’

‘Mm?’

‘How do you reconstitute the powder?’

‘What?’

‘The powder. How exactly do you reconstitute desiccated water?’

‘Oh, that’s easy.’

‘’Yes?

He regarded me as an idiot.

‘You just add water.’

 

 

Pssst: you can still pre-order And The Rest Is History right here 😉

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Short story competition: the winners (part 1)

Hello everyone!

Finally the time is here: here is the first of our fanfiction short story competition winners! A selection of the other entries will be posted once a week for the next couple of weeks.

Bruce Pavier was the first of our winners with this story exploring Ancient Greece. What can I say? Bruce managed to insert Roman numerals into an Ancient Greek story and bring it off perfectly. I loved this story. The phrase, ‘As useless as a luminous Markham’ deserves to go down in History. Brilliant!

 

The pod landed gently, pushing the dust up like brown cotton wool.  Max, Peterson and Mr Markham released their seat belts and took stock of the situation.

‘Well’, said Max, ‘Here we are in Ancient Greece and with only 500 words to put the story across. No pressure then’.

They did the usual checks of the immediate area and then loaded up their rucksacks with Egg sandwiches, packets of crisps and a Thermos Flask of Tea each. Peterson hit the button and the door opened. They stepped out into a warm morning’s sun. The scent of flowers and food drifted on the slight breeze.

‘Right’, said Max, ’We are here to find Hercules and discovery the truth behind the Myth of his feats of incredible strength. The first thing we need to do is synchronise our Sun dials’. Lifting up her wrist she said ‘I have V past VIII’.

‘Concur with that’, said Peterson and turned to Mr Markham. Mr Markham was shaking his wrist. ‘I think mine has stopped. I make it II past V’. He held his wrist to his ear. ‘Yes. Definitely stopped. I cannot hear it ticking at all’.

Peterson grabbed Markham’s wrist and looked at the Sundial. ‘You idiot’, he said,’ Of course it is stopped. It is covered in paint’.

‘Well yes’, said a rather miffed Mr Markham,’ I expected us to be here for some time so I put some luminous paint on it so I could tell the time when it got dark’.

‘You should use a torch like any other sensible person’, said Peterson. (This, of course, was the origin of that famous Ancient Greek expression – ‘As useless as a luminous Markham’).

They walked into the town centre and got directions to where Hercules could be found. To their surprise it was a small shop and sitting on a step outside was a stick of a man.

‘Excuse me’, said Max,’ but would you be so kind as to get Mr Hercules for us’

‘I am he’, said the stick.

‘But I was expecting someone much bigger, someone who could do feats of amazing strength’.

‘Ah,’ said Hercules,’ I see your problem. Come with me’ and he lead them through the shop to a courtyard. In the courtyard was a Scribe writing furiously on a clay tablet. In front of him were six men shouting out words.

Hercules turned to our heroes.  ‘Predictive text,’ he said, ’always a problem and no spell checker. When my exploits were written down they transposed ‘Feet’ for ‘Feat’. You see I am a Chiropodist and my motto is ‘You must have amazingly strong feet’ so you can see where the misunderstanding could have arisen. The saga should have read ‘Hercules and his amazing FEET of strength.’

Back at the pod our confused explorers sat for some length in silence.

‘That was silly’, said Markham.

‘I agree’, replied Max, ’Right , Home and Beer’

The world went white.

What a weekend!

These last few days been a bit of a holiday for me – and much needed. I’ve left Max contemplating 1399 without very much enthusiasm and my new heroine, Elizabeth Cage, being menaced by a telephone. Because these things happen. I myself am regularly terrorised by balloons. I’m all right if someone’s already blown them up and they’re high on the wall out of range, but stand in front of me and blow up a balloon and I have to leave the room. And work on the St Mary’s Christmas story has ground to a halt while I have a look at crinolines and geese.

Anyway, Friday was afternoon tea at Octavo’s Book Shop in Cardiff, and a chance to combine meeting friends, talking about St Mary’s and gorging myself on cupcakes at the same time. Fortunately, I did get most of it the right way round. I’m not that good at eating and talking simultaneously so it did become a little messy at times, so belated apologies if I inadvertently sprayed you with cupcake crumbs.

If you get the chance, there’s also a filmed interview with me on The Gin Book Club where I talk, more or less coherently, about my books and how I write. As soon as we have the link I’ll share it to the world… Safety warning – there’s a lot of arm waving!

Saturday and Sunday were Comic Con, of course, and that was tremendously exciting. Huge thanks to all the masses of people who turned up for a quick gossip. I’m sorry it was a little chaotic at times. Given the queues, it was a good thing we had plenty of room to spread out, although a lot of that might have been because we were outside the Gents – where we were frequently overwhelmed by Jedi knights, Stormtroopers, Dr Who in all his incarnations, zombies, and many others who, I suspected, had left it too late to extricate themselves from their costumes with grace and dignity.

If you couldn’t make it – sorry to have missed you. And if you could – lovely to have met you. Staggeringly, some people had come miles just for this event – Portugal, I think was the furthest away. Southampton, East Anglia, the Midlands, just down the road – the place was full of St Mary’s fans who’d loaded up on tea and chocolate and made the journey. Thank you all very much indeed. I hope you all enjoyed yourself as much as I did.

And now it’s back to work. Max – ungrateful little scamp – has completely failed to extricate herself from the peril in which I left her, so I suppose it’s up to me to do all the heavy lifting again!

Competition winners – and a consolation prize for those not able to make Comic Con…

Sorry for the delay but they’re finally here: the winners of the fanfiction competition! I really loved reading these stories and the standard of entries was excellent. Well done to everyone. I’d declare you all winners if I could.
I was surprised the usual suspects, Max, Peterson and Markham weren’t always the main characters. We saw Professor Rapson at his best – or worst, depending on whether you’re Dr Bairstow or not; Mrs Enderby enjoying a quiet moment; Dr Bairstow himself enjoying a night with his lost love; and Psycho Psykes missing a chance to become Henry VIII’s fourth queen. Imagine if that had happened. Go on – I dare you.
All the stores were exciting and funny and well-researched. Well done, everyone. Obviously you all pay attention when reading the books which is both gratifying and scary. I’m obviously going to have to up my game.
I believe a section of the best will feature on this page, which is great and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

No more suspense, however – the moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. I’m pleased and proud to announce that the winners are – pause for historically inaccurate trumpet fanfare from R&D:

Bruce Pavier for his wonderful short about the Feet of Hercules and Sophie Griffiths for her short story with Professor Rapson at the heart. The spirit of St Mary’s just oozed from every word. Congratulations, Bruce & Sophie – such great stories!

 

And for all of you poor souls who couldn’t make it to Cardiff Comic Con we have the new Chronicles of St Mary’s poster to download right here (or click on the image below)!

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Jodi Taylor Cupcakes

An Exciting Week Ahead! @Octavo_Books #CardiffComicon

Author warning – there’s a lot of exclamation marks in this one. Be warned!

I have an exciting week ahead of me and just for once, it’s good excitement – not the sort you get after you’ve chucked tea all over your laptop. Or plugged in yet another extension lead into the original extension lead and there’s a bit of a bang and a flash and the washing machine stops. Or – on one memorable occasion – when I got the car wedged diagonally across the garage and I couldn’t get out because there wasn’t enough room to open the door and I had to shove it in reverse and just barge my way to freedom inflicting considerable damage on the car, the garage, a pair of stepladders, the ironing board and my reputation.

No – nothing like that this time. It’s all good!

On Friday, I’m at Octavo’s Bookshop in Cardiff where there will be St Mary’s Cupcakes. There will also be new books revealed, signings, cupcakes, a filmed interview with Josie Jaffrey of The Gin Book Club and in case I’ve forgotten to mention them – CUPCAKES! I’ve also been threatened with wine and we all know what that leads to, so that will be the time to pop along and borrow money!

And then, Saturday and Sunday is Cardiff Comicon. Yay! This is a fun event and I do hope some of you can make it. There’s always loads of people dressed as characters from Game of Thrones or Dr Who and I live in hope of catching a glimpse of an historian in the crowd.

The whole St Mary’s series will be available in their new covers and if she’s not too cupcake clogged, the author will be signing them.

Look for the latest adventure – Book 8 And the Rest is History.

And Book 9 – the long-awaited collection of short stories The Long and Short of It – which will include a brand new short that won’t come out until the summer, so just for once, the paperback readers will be ahead of the game.

And there’s more!

The latest Frogmorton Farm adventure The Something Girl will also be available, along with the original prequel – The Nothing Girl – and both of those will be in their shiny new covers too.

As will I – lowering the tone and signing anything put in front of me, so I hope to see you there.

Did I mention the cupcakes?

Vodafone and the deranged sister

We all do something daft every now and then. When we give ourselves a mental head-slap, mutter, ‘Dummy!’ look around to see if anyone’s noticed and then try to carry on as normal. Well, I’ve just made the most colossal fool of myself, so for anyone who’s ever embarrassed themselves in public and wondered how they’ll ever have the nerve to show their face again, I offer the following:

I was out with the eminent author (as he likes to be called and after my performance, trust me, I’m in no position to argue) and I remembered I needed to top up my phone. Pleased and proud that I’d actually remembered before my last credit disappeared, I shoved him into the Vodafone shop and requested a top up.

Everyone with me so far?

Picture the scene, if you will. A small shop in a pleasant rural town, smiling scarlet-clad staff, happy customers – everything is sweetness and light. Enter an eminent author and his sister, the madwoman.

Things went well. I had the right credit card – I could remember my pin – I didn’t have a finger failure putting it in – the little slip curled out of the top of the machine and I was – as I thought – topped up and ready to go.

Alas!

The really very nice lady bashing away at my phone paused, and said, ‘Oh.’

‘Problem?’ I said, with the practised ease of one to whom this happens a lot.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It hasn’t worked. It says O2. Are you O2?’

‘Certainly not,’ I said, indignant at the implication I didn’t know who my provider was. ‘I’m Vodafone. Always have been.’

She flipped off the back of the phone – something I only ever manage to do accidentally – and pulled out the sim card.

‘It says O2.’

And – I can’t believe I did this – I slapped the eminent author on the arm and said, ‘Oh my God, some thieving bugger’s stolen my Vodafone sim and replaced it with an O2 one. Who would do that?’

Thoughtful people began to edge towards the door.

‘No, they haven’t,’ he said, dismayed at the levels of stupidity being demonstrated by a close relative. ‘You’re O2.’

‘No, I’m not,’ I said, exasperated at his complete failure to grasp the essentials of the problem. How dim did he think I was? ‘I’m Vodafone. Steve (name changed to protect the innocent) set me up when he worked there. Remember?’

‘Steve works for O2,’ he said, trying to prise my fingers from the phone.

There followed one of those ghastly moments when you realise that

a) No one’s stolen your Vodafone sim

b) You’re with O2 and always have been

c) You’ve just made a complete arse of yourself and this will be dragged up at every Christmas lunch until the end of time

d) This is yet another shop you can never return to

I have to say – all credit to the staff. No one laughed. Except for the eminent author, of course, giving himself a well-deserved hernia in the corner. They assured me things like this happen all the time – although I doubt that – and gave me a refund.

We left quickly. I had to help the eminent author out of the door because he still couldn’t see properly. The temptation to push him under a bus was familiar and overwhelming.

For those of you who don’t like cliff-hanger endings – I successfully topped up my phone the next day. At O2.

 

If you want to ask me about the latest ridiculous things I’ve done, I’ll be doing a couple of events next week!

On Friday March 3rd I’ll be at Octavo’s in Cardiff Bay: first to film with the lovely Josie from The Gin Book Club and then afterwards we’re having afternoon tea! You can join us by buying a ticket right here.

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Then on March 4th and 5th I’ll be at Cardiff Comic Con! Plus there might be some gorgeous covers coming with us…

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Don’t forget to enter the Comic Con competition right here! I’m having a great time reading through the entries so far.

The Best Things About Being a Writer

As it is time for another blog I was thinking about what the things are I love most about my job (this is what I do when I should be working!).

The best things about being a writer:

  • You can stare aimlessly into space for hours and hours, and as long as you have a pen in your hand, people think you’re working.

 

  • You can read for hours and hours and people think you’re researching your next book.

 

  • You can avoid doing anything unpleasant by citing deadlines. People nod understandingly and sometimes bring you a cup of tea.

 

  • You can bundle your brother, the eminent author, into a car and demand to be taken somewhere exciting on the grounds you need background for your next book. Of course, it’s a good idea to check the weather first. This week’s excursion was to Lydney Harbour – a bit of a surprise for me because I always thought the Forest of Dean was landlocked but we did the Amazon basin in geography and I’m a bit hazy about anything not connected with rubber – and it was cold. It was very, very cold. A Force Ten gale was whistling up that well-known wind tunnel, the Severn Estuary, and at one point I could barely keep my feet. Somewhere in this blog there should be an image of an author slowly freezing to death for the benefit of her readers.

  • You can eat endless chocolate, telling people it stimulates the little grey cells. The extra weight is actually useful as ballast. See the above about barely keeping my feet. Ten thousand Chocolate Brazils have finally justified themselves. And nuts are good for you, too. They stimulate something or other.

 

  • Any and all bizarre behaviour is explained away as being creative. You can get away with murder (not quite but you know what I mean) as long as you’re being creative.

 

So let’s hear it for the pen clutching, staring, geographically challenged, chocolate stuffed creatives – well this one certainly, currently staring cross-eyed at her screen and wondering how much a lightly armoured horse would weigh. Sadly, having neither horse nor bathroom scales, I’m a little stumped. I estimate about half a ton, but if anyone out there possesses both items and can actually arrange a merger of the two, I’d be incredibly grateful.

Reluctantly putting heavy horses to one side, I’ve just begun the edit for the paperback anthology of short stories – The Long and the Short of It – which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk right here! Signed copies will be available at Cardiff Comic Con or direct from Accent Press.

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There are no details for Amazon.com or Audible release dates, but as soon as we have links I will post them here. You are not forgotten!

Hurray! And The Rest of History is Live to pre-order on Kindle!

Great news! For all of you impatient souls out there – And the Rest is History is live for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/2jsXwMm

And for all you impatient souls in the US – I have been informed that the American Publishers will be putting it up in March.

And for all you impatient souls who like to listen to St Mary’s, we don’t have a date from Audible yet, but we will, and as soon as we do, I’ll post it on this page. Well, not me, obviously, but someone who knows what they’re doing will post it on this page.

And for those wondering how I’m passing the time these days, I’m editing The Something Girl ready for its launch at Comic Con, finishing the first draft of a thriller I’m struggling with. Yes, I have bitten off more than I can chew there. I’ve made a start on Book 10, which has turned out to be far more complex than I imagined and I have to ask – does anyone out there know – if I fell off a three-storey roof onto soft ground would it kill me? Or could I get away with just a few broken bones? Why don’t I pack all this in and write books for children? Very few characters in children’s books die horribly. Except for the wicked queen in Snow White, of course, who was forced to wear red hot shoes and dance until she died. Or the grandmother in Red Riding Hood who was eaten by a wolf. Or the ugly sisters in Cinderella who cut off their own toes so they could squeeze their feet into the glass slipper. And who wears glass footwear anyway? Or voluntarily marries a prince? And now I’ve lost the thread.

Yes – And the Rest is History – pre-orders. Links. Progress report. All done. Have a great day!

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An Interesting Thought – How Important is a Book’s Cover?

nothing girl finalHere’s an interesting thought – how important is a book’s cover? When you’re browsing the bookshelves, what makes you pick up a book? Is it the title? Or the author’s name? Or an interesting looking cover?

I ask because I’ve just discovered The Nothing Girl has suddenly raced up the Amazon Bestseller Rank and I’m wondering why. It wasn’t doing too badly before, but over the last week, it’s done really well.

Why is this?

 

Is it renewed interest because the sequel – The Something Girl – is due out in a couple of The Something Girl green final smallmonths?

Is it just some random fluctuation of fate? I get a lot of that. Fate fluctuates all over me all the time!

Or is it because of the fabulous new covers – chosen by you, thanks very much. And if so, how important are cover designs in the scheme of things?

I myself would buy anything by M R C Kasasian or Ben Aaronovitch or Lindsey Davis, even if the cover was blank. Or even if it had the words – DO NOT READ THIS BOOK – in small friendly letters across the front. On the other hand, when browsing through bookshops – especially in this day and age when many books are displayed face up on tables – it’s the cover design that attracts me. And there are some beautiful covers around these days. Some of them are works of art in themselves. In fact, I’m so fond of the new covers for the Frogmorton Farm series, I persuaded Accent Press to print them off for me. I’m going to frame them and put them on my walls.

little donkey red altSo – back to the original question – what do you think? What attracts you to a book?

The title?

The author?

Or the cover?

If you are interested the Nothing Girl is available to buy here, you can buy Little Donkey here and pre-order The Something Girl here.

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